Our latest 'Introducing Orkney's Makers' feature focuses on Jane Glue, a much-loved local artist who has spent more than thirty years painting the islands that inspire her.
There seems to be a very creative gene in your family. Where does that come from?
My dad was very artistic although he came from a poor background so attending art school was out of the question - he joined the navy instead!
For yourself, was painting always the medium that you were drawn towards?
My twin sister and I always drew and made things from an early age and we competed with each other constantly, we made our mum choose which of our drawings were the best.
Did you go through the process of a formal training in art?
I always wanted to go to art school and at seventeen I left Orkney to attend Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen. I arrived with great enthusiasm but within a year I returned home suffering from severe homesickness, remember, there was no internet or mobile phones in those days! After a few years doing other things, I decided to try again and this time I attended Harrow School of Art in London to study Book Illustration as I felt I could maybe have a career in Orkney doing that. I still felt homesick but I stuck it out and graduated in 1985.
I returned home to live and by that time I was already selling a few paintings locally. I did illustrate a few books too before opening my own gallery, Shorelines Gallery, in 1987 at the back of my sister Judith Glue's shop in Kirkwall. One of my first commissions after arriving back home was a set of six composite large paintings for Highland Park Distillery which at that time had just opened to the public. I was paid £1000 for the commission. This money along with a small loan from my bank enabled me to start my business.
Of course, that business side is really important for anyone that wants to make a living within the creative sector. Did that come naturally to you?
I come from a business family, my parents ran their own greengrocer and market garden and all three of my siblings had their own businesses too, so it was natural for me to want to be my own boss. Judith encouraged me to open up the gallery and helped me initially with book-keeping and setting the gallery up. Being artistic opens so many doors in business, not only can you produce your own artwork and products from it, you can turn your hand to design, advertising, shop and window displays. My mother especially instilled customer service - she was an expert at it and I too learned quickly that the customer is king!
Within your generation, and the generation immediately before, there seemed to be a real outpouring of creativity in Orkney. Was that something that you felt part of and how did you grow within that?
In those days tourism in Orkney had just started and, along with my sister and other Orkney creatives, we grew with the industry. I also had a lot of local support and many Orcadians collected my work, without them I could not have survived. I sold my cards and other products made from my paintings at the Aviemore Trade Fair each year, selling to craft shops and galleries mainly throughout the UK. Many of my contemporary Orkney arts and crafts friends attended Aviemore and the creative mix at the time had a great buzz.
I was one of the first members of what is now Creative Orkney and we met and shared ideas regularly. I love all kinds of art and crafts but one of my main influences in the early days was the artist Sylvia Wishart, she taught me at Gray's and tried hard at the time to keep me from returning home. Later photographer Gunnie Moberg was also a big influence, I loved her way of seeing and her photographs of the shoreline.
Your watercolours became hugely popular. There can barely be a house in Orkney that doesn’t have one or two of your prints on the wall!
Yes, watercolours are still my favourite medium. I love the way the colours run together unexpectedly outwith your control and they're the perfect medium for the Orkney landscape. Of course, I had to make a living if I was going to be a full-time artist, it wasn't easy but I embraced Orkney's sunsets, the Ring of Brodgar and my favourite bird, the puffin, all of which have added to my survival! I produced limited edition prints, cards and calendars of my work which meant everyone could buy it at a reasonable price.
And within the past two decades your work has changed and developed greatly, as have your working practices.
In 2005 I moved to my own purpose-built gallery and studio in Finstown. There I had space to teach and exhibit more original work. In 2015 I sold the premises and took a break, feeling a wee bit tired of running a shop and having to produce enough work to fill a big exhibition space all year round. By 2018 I got my mojo back and I moved to the studio space at the Creative Hub in Kirkwall along with other creatives to keep me company. Although my work had changed considerably since 2005, now I had even more freedom to paint what I wanted. My subject matter remains the same - the wonderful colour, light and nature of Orkney - but today I use many different materials such as my own collage and other mixed media materials in a more abstract way. I still love to take in the beaches and landscape and visit my favourite places, but I also like to experiment and paint in my studio which is a lovely, light, airy space with its glass wall and roof.
You’ve very much embraced the digital age. And, given the global upheaval that was to come in 2020, your timing was immaculate.
In 2019 I launched my new website and with the help of digital boost and Sacha from The Strategy Collective it has been developed into a showcase and shop for my work from over the past 35 years. It’s so important to have that online presence these days and as an artist it really gives you a lot of control over how you sell your work.
Find out more about Jane Glue and visit her official website. You can also pick up Jane's prints and original artwork at Judith Glue's shop on Broad Street in Kirkwall, and Jane is often there helping out during the summer on busy days.